Mimmo Rotella

Untitled, 1963
Photo emulsion on canvas
94 x 196 cm
37 1/8 x 77 1/8 in
Signed on the lower right on recto: “Rotella/63”

€ 350,000.00


[Untitled], 1963 is an early example of the use of photographic reproduction on canvas within Mimmo Rotella’s practice, a technique which he begun working with in 1963 in a quest for mechanical painting and that can be considered a natural progression – or rather, reversal, of his creative, layering processes of décollage. He still uses posters and proofs in these works, which become even more objective in forming the artist’s iconography of the present. The procedure, which he calls reportage, involves choosing images, photographing them, projecting the blown-up negatives onto a canvas chemically treated with photographic emulsion to fix the image and when required, colouring. Reportage doesn’t just refer to the technique – namely, the multi-stage transferral of images from one medium to another – it comments on the content of the works, bringing to the fore the artist’s interest in exploring communication and media. The deriving photo emulsions are indeed recordings of contemporary events and their media dissemination, at once communicating and commemorating the images they capture. They play between temporal dimensions; speaking of something contemporary to the making of the work, of the reality of a document appropriated by the artist and through whose gesture is already blurring into memory.

[Untitled], 1963 is one of several photo emulsions created by Mimmo Rotella using images of Pope Paul VI or more broadly referencing the Catholic Church. The image source places next to one another two ripped posters with the same image that had evidently been displayed along the street in Rome between June 29th and July 2nd, 1963, as per the city stamps on the top right corners. Coincidentally, the dates are particularly significant: June 29th being the date of the newly elected Pope Paul VI’s first blessing of the masses, and July 2nd, the date of US President John F. Kennedy’s meeting with the Pope in Vatican City.
The year 1963 was a particularly significant one in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, due to the death of Pope John XXIII and the election of Pope Paul VI occurring while the Second Vatican Council, initiated the previous year, was still ongoing. The aim of this exceptional assembly was to bring the Church into the modern world through a deep reformation that would see its popularisation thanks to the removal of several layers of detachment between the Church and the people. Amongst the notable reforms, the permission of holding mass in languages other than Latin, and the iconisation of Church leaders, in a process similar to the popularisation of those film stars that deeply fascinated Rotella throughout his career.

A very similar photo emulsion, featuring an almost identical composition to [Untitled], 1963 but realised on cardboard and titled Il Pontefice, was included alongside other canvases depicting Catholic themes such as processions, crests, popes et cetera, in the seminal exhibition Rotella: Vatican IV at Galerie J in Paris where Rotella’s artypo and photo emulsion works first made their debut. The Vatican Council was still in session during the show in Spring 1965, making the pieces in this series poetic chronicles of the time, allowing the artist to convey his attitude towards current affairs with great clarity. Rotella’s decision to commemorate this event may be traced back to the deep roots of the Roman Catholic Church in Italy and his own deep connection to the city of Rome.